After various discussions during past city council meetings and a number of requests for updates regarding ridership numbers and future funding of the shared ride taxi program, a representative from Running Inc., the company that operates the Westby Cab, addressed the council on October 16.
Richard Running founded the shared ride taxi service in Viroqua in 1994 and added the city of Westby to the mix in February of 2005. Running Inc. is the parent company of eight transit companies serving communities across the state, including Coulee Cab (Prairie du Chien), Onalaska/Holmen/ West Salem Public Transit, Portage Cab, Baraboo Transit, Valley Transit II, Viroqua Cab, Westby Cab, La Crosse County Rural Transit, Richland Center Transit and Chippewa Falls Shared Ride.
Running attended the meeting and gave the council a brief overview of the taxi service. According to Running, ridership in the city of Westby is down slightly from the previous year, coming in at 7,757 through August 2012, compared with 8,333, during the same period in 2011.
Running told the council the ridership count in Westby may be lower due to some confusion with Logistic Care, the company who provides and schedules Medicaid rides.
“The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, but we’re working on that though,” Running said.
Even though ridership numbers are down in 2012, Running believes the 2013 shared ride budget will remain the same as 2012. He anticipates state funding levels to drop less than 1 percent, a number he won’t know for sure until the DOT finalizes its 2013 budget sometime in November.
“We’re working with legislators to keep funding for the program alive,” Running said.
Council members agreed the program has strong community support, although they would like to see the city’s reimbursement money from their investment be returned faster than it currently is.
The city of Westby pays $13,000 monthly to operate the program and receives a portion of the money refunded through state and federal funding. The city is expected to be timely with its monthly payments, but that’s not the case when it comes to the city being paid back for its investment from the state or federal government.
Running suggested a couple of representatives from the city of Westby should attend the next DOT meeting with Running Inc. in November.
The Westby Cab service operates two cabs, 365 days a year, with one of the vehicles equipped for wheelchair transport. The number of cab rides provided annually in Westby has more than doubled since the city invested in the program in 2005.
Westby Cab hours of service are: Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Westby Cab can be reached at 608-634-4844.
Taxi cab rates are : Adult - $2.50; Senior (55+) - $1.50; Student - $1.50; Disabled - $1.50; out of city limits is an additional $1.75 per mile. Westby Cab also offers $10 coupon books, which are available at Running Inc, 318 West Decker Street, Viroqua or by calling 608-637-2599.
Running Inc. is a member of WATO — Wisconsin Association of Taxicab Owners, where Richard Running currently serves on the WATO Board of Directors; Wisconsin Rural and Paratransit Providers and WURTA — Wisconsin Urban and Rural Transit Association.
In other news, the council approved the sale of a small parcel of property in the Westby Industrial Park to Avanti Earthworks, Inc.